Republican Rep. Steve Daines is proving that in the race for Montana's open Senate seat this year, you can't run from your past but you can sure try to hide.
Late last week, Mother Jones dug up an old piece of creation theory criticism from back in Daines' congressional campaign days. The story read like an electoral time capsule, dusting off questions about a 2012 Daines fundraiser initially scheduled for the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Ky., and quoting Daines from a Montana Public Radio interview saying he'd support teaching creationism in public schools. Fun, fond remembrances for some of us. For Daines and his Senate campaign, apparently, not so much. Mother Jones' requests for comment were met with silence. The campaign declined to comment for the Indy.
That silence is puzzling in light of the reaction Daines' House campaign had to the Indy's initial queries about the Creation Museum fundraiser in July 2012. At the time, campaign spokesman Zach Lahn quickly shifted responsibility for the event's bizarre Young Earth venue to campaign supporters who knew Daines from his private sector days. Lahn stated via email that "all location details and speaker invitations have been made by these supporters." The fundraising venue was promptly changed when the news hit the Internet.
In 2012, the Daines campaign dismissed the apparent creationist tie as an innocuous and unintentional hiccup. Two years later the Senate hopeful is ducking the issue entirely. Any mention of the fundraiser's original location has vanished. Even Lahn, who is now working as campaign manager for U.S. House candidate Matt Schultz in Iowa, did not respond when contacted by email this week. All that's left are dead links and silence.
Concerned Montanans can still fall back on Daines' creation theory commentary from his November 2012 interview with MTPR's Sally Mauk. It's there that Daines really tipped his hand, saying public schools should teach students about evolution and intelligent design and "allow the students to make up their minds." The talking point didn't attract much attention outside the state at the time; Daines' congressional bout against Democrat Kim Gillan was conveniently overshadowed by the contentious Senate showdown between Jon Tester and Denny Rehberg. But now that he's polling as the frontrunner in a race that could help the GOP retake the Senate majority this fall, Daines is increasingly on the nation's radar. With that level of scrutiny, you can't hide forever.